I'm one of those parents. I know; it might sound like I'm using the guilty tactics my parents once did. I tell my children that while they turn up their noses at broccoli, we're fortunate to have it. Times are hard across the street, and across the globe. And because I can only imagine how people are suffering, I won't let anyone in my house take veggies for granted. Even asparagus!
I've always been someone who could imagine myself in someone else's shoes (or lack of them). I worry a lot about the violence, poverty and starvation across the globe. I worry about my friends and their troubled marriages, neighbors and their financial struggles, Arizonans and their lost jobs, children and their broken homes.
You'd think that as a committed Christian I wouldn't stay up at night worrying about all this. I'm taught to believe God's steering the ship, right? That I'm supposed to "let go, and let God." But I do worry. Because while I believe in His sovereignty, I recognize God, like a good parent, is not going to solve all of our problems. He gave us a plentiful earth to harvest and steward. I don't hold him accountable for our inability to share it peacefully. We're still maturing.
After all, God gave us free will. It means that even good people will make bad choices, corrupt governments will oppress their citizens, the greedy will serve their own interests, spouses will fail to practice humility, siblings will fight over property rights. Ours is a fallen world. And even our leaders are imperfect, every one. In the context of our brokenness, however, we can each make small contributions that promise synergistic change. Take the generation that came of age or fought during World War II. United by a common set of values, they made enormous sacrifices. Returning home from the battlefield and the assembly lines, they embraced higher education, marriage and family in record numbers and built unprecedented prosperity. Why? Because each one heard the call to do their "part."
So the way I see it, in the midst of our turmoil, we can yell at the TV, vent our frustration at politicians or stay up at night and worry. Or, we can find common ground, roll up our sleeves and hear the call to fix big problems with many small steps. Even if you are hurting, there is very likely someone in as much or more pain then you. It will help you, to help them.
So what's going in the world that grieves you? Do the images of children starving in Somalia break your heart? Volunteer to pack meals at Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) in Tempe. If you know too many people looking for work, help to distribute their resumes to your contacts. If the alarming scale of human trafficking frightens you, volunteer at Steetlight Phoenix. If the economy troubles you, support local businesses. If you're fed up with politics, start a dialogue with someone who thinks differently - and listen.
Start a conversation. Say prayers. Smile at the clerk. Do your part to spread some much needed "salt and light" (Matthew 5: 13-16) to a world in pain. As the lovely Mother Theresa said, "We cannot do great things; only small things with great love."
Oh, and eat your broccoli.
• Diane Meehl does her part in Ahwatukee Foothills, where she lives with her husband and their three members of the broccoli rebellion. They worship at Mountain View Lutheran Church. Reach her at Dianemeehl@cox.net.